• Legal, 
  • Recruitment

  September 16, 2016

Employment of People Under 15 Years of Age

Young employees play a major role in the tourism and hospitality industry. Sometimes a young person wants a part-time job in food service just to earn a bit of pocket money. The part-time job can lead to a lifetime attachment to the industry and start many young people on an exciting career path. However, employers who violate the rules for employing children may face penalties up to $10,000.

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While not in force yet, new rules governing the employment of children were introduced in May 2019.

Currently, if you wish to employ a child under the age of 15, you must obtain the written permission of the child’s parent or guardian. In order to employ a child under 12 years of age, the employer must also obtain a permit from the Director of Employment Standards, who may also set the conditions of employment for the child.

Once in force, the amendments to the Employment Standards Act will prevent a person from employing a child under 14 from working without permission from the Director of Employment Standards. Those who are 14 or 15 may perform “light work” with written consent from a parent or guardian, which will be determined by regulation taking into consideration whether the work is likely to be harmful to the health or development of the child.

Further, employers will not be able to employ children under the age of 16 years old to work in any hazardous industry, or undertake hazardous work. Children between the ages of 16 and 19 will also be prevented from such work, except when the child attains a certain age in respect of the particular hazardous industry or work, which will be set out by regulation.


You may not ask the child to work when he or she should be in school. No shifts should be scheduled that conflict with the regular school day. When school is in session, a child may work up to four hours on a school day, to a maximum of 20 hours per week.

During vacation times or when school is not in session, a child may work up to seven hours per day to a maximum of 35 hours per week. If an employer wants a child to work longer hours, the employer must contact the Employment Standards Branch to obtain approval from the Director for the longer hours. The Employment Standards Branch will want to know why it is necessary for the child to work the longer hours and will assess the possible impact on the child’s health, safety and welfare.


Children must be under the direct and immediate supervision of an adult at all times while they are working. This means that a child cannot be left alone to “mind the store.” It also means, for example, that a child cannot be sent out onto the street to promote the business wearing a sandwich board unless there is a responsible adult with the child or within in a direct line of sight.

It’s very important to note that “under direct and immediate supervision” does not just mean that there is an adult present while the child works. The adult must take an active part in assuring that the child is safe and supervised at all times. When assigning a task to a child, you must ensure that the task is safe and supervised.

It is also good idea to have advance arrangements made to assure that the child has a safe ride home, especially when a shift ends after dark.
In the food service industry, if the business has a liquor license, it is important to check with the Liquor Control and Licensing Office in to ensure compliance with any special regulations that may apply to young employees.


All the provisions of the ESA apply to the young employee. He or she is entitled to receive no less than minimum wage, vacation pay, statutory holiday pay (if applicable), overtime if overtime hours are worked (and prior approval from the Director has been received), as well as compensation for length of service if the child is terminated without notice or cause. The child’s earnings are subject to the same statutory deductions as the older employees, such as income tax and EI.

For further guidance on the employment of children generally, visit Employment Standards Branch – General Employment of Young People Fact Sheet and the Interpretation Manual on Hiring Children.

Adapted from BC Restaurant News (Dec 2003/Jan 2004). Last updated December 2014. Additional information provided by Ryan Anderson, an employment lawyer with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.

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